The Ecrins National Park, founded in 1973, stretches between La Grave and Villar d’Arène in the north and the Champsaur in the south. Several valleys converge on a core of high mountains and glaciers of which the Barre des Ecrins at 4102 m is the highest point. Even if it is above all a high-altitude area, ramblers have ample opportunity to approach the Alpine peaks and enjoy idyllic valleys as well as spectacular mountain passes.
On our side of the Park, the hiking trails start from the Lautaret pass or from Arsine – Pied du col. After the first steep climb, you will reach a peaceful hanging valley where a turquoise mountain stream meanders through a flowery meadow, marmots lounge in the sun and snowy peaks add the finishing touch. The path continues along a stream that quickens its pace long before you reach Valfourche were the valley splits in two. There you have to choose between the moraine that leads to the Pavé Lake and hut and the trail going towards the source of the river before continuing on to the Adele Planchard hut, past several narrow shelves in the cliff with handrails. These high-altitude huts at the foot of the glaciers are accessible to experienced hikers. Above and beyond, ropes and crampons take over.
The other option is to head towards the col d’Arsine on the main GR54 trail. After passing two welcoming mountain huts at the Alpe de Villar (Refuge de l’Alpe and Refuge de Chamoissière), the path crosses the Park boundary, marked by painted flags. An easy walk through alpine meadows with a view of tantalizing peaks and a short climb later, the col d’Arsine leaves you the choice of a picturesque descent towards le Casset and the Guisane valley or further exploring the impressing moraines left by the glaciers and the glacier lake of Arsine that is hidden behind them. These gems are part of the Tour du Combeynot and the GR54 Tour de l’Oisans.